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A Letter to Layla: Travels to our deep past and near future (Ramona Koval, Text)

Ramona Koval’s latest book is really a quest story: in it she sets out to find how humanity got to where we are now, and where we are going. In A Letter to Layla Koval meets many extraordinary people, from paleo-archeologists and transhumanists to science fiction writers and robots. Throughout the book run conversations the author has with her grandchildren, particularly her youngest granddaughter, the eponymous and charming Layla, whose presence serves as a reminder of the generation that will inherit all our problems, and hopefully produce solutions to them. With her training in science and journalism, Koval is able to give clarity to complex theories without totally reducing them, and gravity to some really bizarre ideas and movements, transhumanism being one of them. While the book is definitely didactic, it remains accessible to the lay reader. The author vividly describes each of the experts she meets and seems to give equal weight to their often-conflicting ideas, which is no mean feat given how unusual some of them are. ABC Radio National listeners will be familiar with Koval’s speaking voice, and her literary voice has the same engaging warmth. It’s impossible to read this book and not be infected with the author’s curiosity and enthusiasm for this massive subject.

Louise Pfanner is an author, illustrator and bookseller.


Category: Reviews